Now that I've started to accumulate a small wardrobe of knitted items, I find that I've settled into a pattern over the last couple of years. I could call it "Fall Knits Melee" or "Battle of the Handknit Laundry" or something, but really, it's my annual preparation for the upcoming sweater season!
*Dislaimer: I call it "sweater" season, but really, it applies to all my winter items.
I start by picking through my stash - not everything needs to go through the process, especially if I didn't wear it much last season. Once I've got a nice pile going, I sift through to see which ones need a good shave.
Inevitably, some items pill. It's not the end of the world, but lint shaving is a bit of a chore. I have a rather inexpensive lint remover that has lasted a few years so far. I check the public side of all my garments and touch them up as needed. You can see in this next photo what a difference it makes! The left mitten has been shaved, the right has not - it definitely makes color work look a lot more crisp!
Then they go into a soak. It's important to know the habits of the yarns you used (I keep a notebook where I jot these things down) so you have an idea of which projects might bleed dye, and which are safe to put in the same basin as other items. My Honeybee Cardigan has to go in a wash by itself because it bleeds all over, so I have to do these in batches today!
I don't really bother with wool wash since we both have fragrance allergies in this household. I use Dawn dish detergent. About 1 tablespoon to each gallon of water - I soak the items for about 30 minutes, drain the sink, fill again with clear water, wait another 30 minutes, and do another round of clear water. For dirty items (like sleeve cuffs that tend to get grimy) I will mix about a half tablespoon of Oxyclean in the water. It is critical to not let that soak for too long as it can damage the fibers, but 30 minutes or less is fine.
I press as much water out as possible and then roll everything up in a beach towel to press out more moisture. I lay out a layer of towels over a laminate floor where they will be undisturbed and carefully lay everything out. This wouldn't be appropriate for items like lace shawls that require aggressive blocking on blocking mats, but for sweaters and cardigans, this method usually works just dandy. I have a couple of items that do need to be blocked out after every wash - I usually wash and block those on their own throughout the year.
And voila! A batch of fresh clean handknits for the upcoming colder months! It ends up being an all-day production, but I think it's well worth it.